Music in History

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The opera is drama in which music is a key factor, as it includes expressive melodies for voices with orchestral accompaniment (recitativo, aria, chorus) and orchestral preludes and interludes.

Opera is one of the leading forms that combine music and theatre practice. It is very complex, involving many different arts: music (instrumental and vocal), drama, poetry, acting, dance, Scenic design, costumes, etc. Factors like high cost of production and also technical difficulties in performing contributed to the creation of a "status symbol"  concerning opera artists.  Because opera was very popular many  aspiring composers and  singers were attracted.  

Most  operas have been  composed by specialists concerning the musical form. Only a few composers  worked on opera  equally along with other genres, for example:  Monteverdi, Handel, Mozart, R. Strauss, Berlioz, Prokofiev, Britten and  Stravinsky.
Other composers did not try it at all, or  they did, however with  no  worth mentioning success.
As with all art forms, opera was based  on a number of specific  conventions. The most important of these  is that  characters express their thoughts and feelings through  songs  and not so much through  speech.
Because  it takes more time to develop ideas through music than through words, usually  it is  used one (or both) of the following techniques
1) The stretching of the story and, therefore, the slow rising and falling action (as in musical dramas of Wagner).
2) Alternating periods of action and repose. The action may be transferred to recitative, (with, as less  as possible  music) and  it occasionally may be interrupted by musical  "acts" (arias, ensembles, ballets, etc.).
According to Willi Apel,  these characteristics, like  the slow progress of the story  and the frequent interruptions, would cause a serious flaw to a spoken theatre work , however they are  necessary for  the opera.
From these basic necessities arose many of the opera's features and perhaps people who are not familiar with the these nowadays  find it difficult to accept. Such features are the frequent repetition of text, lengthy emotional scenes , the last words before his/her death, etc.

                                        IL Sant' Alessio (Stefano Landi)

                                   IL GIASONE" by Francesco Cavalli

Willi Apel: Harvard dictionary of music, second edition, eighth printing

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